Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Kyrie Irving hopes Celtics fans won't show 'subtle racism' in Boston return

It has been a long time coming for the clash between Celtics fans and Kyrie Irving, since the All-Star took his talents to Brooklyn in the summer of 2019 as a free agent.

The former Celtic point guard has only played at TD Garden once -- which was back on Christmas Day earlier this season -- in front of zero fans in the stands, Irving enjoyed a blowout win over his former team.
And much like that same outcome five months ago, the Nets cruised to a 130-108 Game 2 victory to take a 2-0 lead in this first round best-of-7 matchup Tuesday night. As the series shifts to Boston for Games 3 and 4, Irving only hopes Celtics fans don't show "subtle racism" when they boo him.
"It's not my first time being an opponent in Boston," Irving said postgame. "So I'm just looking forward to competing with my teammates and hopefully we can just keep it strictly basketball, there's no belligerence or any racism going on. Subtle racism and people yelling shit from the crowd. But even if it is, that's just the nature of the game, and we're just going to focus on what we can control."
While this will be the first time playing in front of Celtics fans since leaving after spending two seasons with the team, Irving was asked if he had experienced racism in Boston before as a follow-up question.
"I'm not the only one who can attest to this," Irving said, putting his hands up and sarcastically laughing. "It is what it is. The whole world knows it."
Back in 2019, a fan was ejected and banned from TD Garden for two years for allegedly saying a racial slur to DeMarcus Cousins. On the heals of that incident, Marcus Smart revealed he too experienced racism at the Garden before, but refused to go into detail at that time.

Though Irving called the Cousins incident "saddening," the former C's star said he had not experienced racism from Celtics fans during his time in Boston.
"I myself can only speak for playing here as an opponent, I've never heard anything like that," Irving said in 2019. "But I can only go off of hearing stories. When you hear something like that, especially people of color, I gravitate toward being on anyone's side, as long as it's the right side."
The Celtics announced over the weekend that there would be an increase of crowd capacity for Game 3 on Friday and "near full capacity" on Sunday for Game 4 against the Nets at TD Garden.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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